Sega Saturn Virtua Racing Documentary

The team behind the Sega Saturn Shiro Podcast have just released an hour-long documentary about “Time Warner Interactive’s VR Virtua Racing” for the Sega Saturn.  The game has polarized fans or the Virtua Racing franchise for years, as it offers the most content of all Virtua Racing releases, but the controls are far different from the original.

To be honest, I had no intention of watching an hour-long documentary, but after just a few moments, I was completely sucked in.  While I never like giving away spoilers, the documentary includes an interview with programmer Chuck Tolman, who revealed two very interesting facts about the game that I had to share here:

  • The game wasn’t a port of the arcade game and used none of the original source code.
  • As suspected, the “VR” in the title stands for “Virtua Racing”.  That makes the full title of the already too long name:  “Time Warner Interactive’s Virtua Racing Virtua Racing”.

While the second point is just an anecdote, the first is a major focus of the documentary and the story behind it was absolutely fascinating to me…especially all the discussion about the programming hardware the team was using!  Another point made in the documentary that’s worth discussing here, is the game tends to perform a bit better with software emulation than on original hardware:  The framerate is more consistent and you’re able to use a controller with an analog control stick.  It’s ironic that another port of Virtua Racing – the PlayStation 2 port – also runs better in software emulation, as shown in the DF Retro video at 19:52.

It’s my guess that as processors and graphics chips get faster, we’ll start to see this a lot more with games from the 32-bit era and up.  The ability to render 3D graphics at a higher resolution is something that’s impossible on real hardware and there’s potential to run these games using software emulation with little to no extra input lag added.

If you’re a huge fan of Virtua Racing, I strongly recommend also checking out both DF Retro and Jenovi’s videos on it, as they put each version of the game into perspective.  Personally, even after playing the excellent Switch port, my favorite is still the 32x version…

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